Solving the TinyUrl centralization problem
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 by Dave Winer.
Following up on yesterday's bit about centralizing and TinyUrl, this is one of those vexing problems that actually has a solution!
Every web app that produces long urls should provide a built-in url-shortening facility. The user interface would be similar to the one in Google Maps they call "Link To This Page." You click on it, and up pops a box containing an address you can use to point to the page. Screen shot.
Another key point, when they give you a shortened url, it should point back to the software that gave it to you, so the shortened link will be exactly as long-lived as the thing it's pointing to. In other words, the URL shortener wouldn't contribute any extra link rot, to use an old term coined (I believe) by Jakob Nielsen.
Now that URL length has become an issue for users, it might be even better for designers to view URLs as part of site design. Look at the address for the page for the Wii at Amazon. Wouldn't it be easier to find if the address were:
Update: This reminds me, I have my own url-shortener, as I mentioned earlier, but it's a dynamic app, and that bothers me. I'd much rather put a static file in my web server folder that would be understood by a browser as meaning "redirect to this location." I know there are htaccess files in Apache, and other mechanisms in other servers, but I keep coming back to this. I know that there is a <meta> option to redirect, maybe I should use this for a all-static url shortener. Hmmm. I wanted to do one of these conventions for RSS, but I couldn't sell it to other aggregator devs.